Arsenal Need To Back Unai Emery

Arsenal’s latest win over London rivals Chelsea has kept The Gunners in the hunt for a top four finish. They are currently in fifth spot and are just three points behind The Blues in the Premier League table.

Yet if the club don’t go out and bring in more talent during this transfer window, then they’ll give manager Unai Emery an uphill task to stay in that particular race.

The Spaniard has done a great job to freshen things up at the Emirates, since replacing long-term legendary boss Arsene Wenger last summer.

The Gunners look stronger in midfield. New signing Lucas Torreira has given the team bite and backbone again in the engine room. The Uruguayan’s presence has also seen an upturn in fortune of  Swiss star Granit Xhaka, who wasn’t consistent enough before this season. Youngster Matteo Guendouzi looks like he could be a future Gunners legend, he’s enthusiastic and gives the club everything he has.

Bernd Leno has finally won the number one jersey off of veteran goalkeeper Petr Cech. The german looks more comfortable with the ball at his feet and thus more used to Emery’s style of playing from the back.

The Spaniard has noticed that his attack is better when Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are deployed in the same team. Between them the duo have now scored twenty-two gaols between them this term.

Emery is also getting more from Alex Iwobi and giving young talent like Ainsley Maitland-Miles and opportunity to shine.

The Arsenal tema are the fourth best in the terms of keeping possession and have the fourth highest scorers in the league too.

The team does still have issues though.

The defence is still a bit of a weak-link and has been ravaged by injuries this term. Ideally I believe Arsenal would be much stronger if they got a central defender that possess good pace and that can pass the ball.

They also lack a consistent top talent that can work on the right wing. Unai has used various players on that flank and no one has done a good enough job to be considered a regular for that position.

Ideally the club’s hierarchy would look at the job Emery’s done so far and then back him in the transfer market to give the Spanish coach the best possible chance of reaching and finishing in the Champions League places.

Yet Unai Emery told The Guardian this month stating his side will only have the funds available to bring new recruits on loan deals:

“We cannot sign permanently,”

“We can only loan players. I know the club is working on possibilities of which players can help us with big performances like we need now. I cannot say more.”

Now it’s very hard for top clubs to get quality in the loan market, especially not players that will get you up the league table. Most teams that loan out players want permanent clauses inserted into those contracts, can Arsenal afford to do that?

A lot of those good new signings came on the say so of head of recruitment Sven Mislintat. The issue is that the BBC have reported that the German will be leaving the club in February.  It means more upheaval for the North London giants.

Then you’ve got Mesut Ozil.

The former German internationalist is no doubt a phenomenal talent but the attacking midfielder doesn’t work enough on his defending duties and he seems to go missing during the important fixtures. Emery has dropped the midfield maestro for recent games and that suggests that the Spaniard doesn’t fully trust Ozil.

The problem is that the twenty-nine year old is on a longterm contract and according to Sky Sports it’s worth £350k a week. Chances are that Arsenal won’t be able to get rid of Mesut as no team will be willing to match that luxurious wage, unless The Gunners significantly stump up a huge part of the cost.

It seems crazy that Arsenal would continually get caught out when trying to tie star players down. They’ve had to sell Alexis Sanchez, Alexis Oxlade-Chamberlain and Robin van Persie because they couldn’t agree new terms. Aaron Ramsey has just signed a pre-contract agreement to join Juventus on a free transfer in the summer.

Yet instead of doing deals with these players, they threw all their money at Mesut Ozil who always struggled in the big games.

Arsenal told us for years that they got good cash reserves in the bank and that the new stadium would make them lots of money.

Yet when the club need to invest, they turn around and say there’s no funds available.

The Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke needs to invest or. sell his shares.

Look at what Liverpool have done in recent transfer windows. Jurgen Klopp has spotted weaknesses in his squad and brought in top-class replacements.

Now maybe Arsenal can’t plug every gap in their pool but the club should give their boss  at least one new signing to give him the best chance of finishing in the top four.

At the moment it seems that the Gunners are asking Unai Emery to work with one arm behind his back and that doesn’t bode well for their season, in my opinion. Plus it won’t keep Emery at the Emirates if he gets a decent offer from another European powerhouse.

The Dutch Winger That’s Interesting Manchester United & Tottenham Hotspur

Both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have been heavily linked, by The Sun, with PSV Eindhoven winger Steven Bergwijn during this winter transfer window.

Inside Futbol has stated that the Eredivisie champions want at least €30m for the Dutchman.

So what would either Premier League giant get if they managed to sign Steven Bergwijn? 

Well they’d be getting a talented twenty-one year old, who has already won two senior international caps with The Netherlands.

The wideman has made seventy-eight first-team league appearances for PSV and scored eighteen goals. He’s also helped his side win three Dutch league titles and in 2014 he won the Golden Player award at the UEFA European U-17 Championships.

Steven is a creative live-wire who can play on either wing. He likes to be direct and attack opposition defences with his quick feet and his ability to skip passed incoming challenges.

He’s played twenty-five times so far thus season; once through the middle, thirteen times on the left and eleven on the right.

The youngster is technically very sound, he’s happy with that ball at his feet and he enjoys a dribble.

According to Whoscored; the winger takes around 2.8 shots on per league game, on average this season he’s managed an 85% passing success rate, makes around 3 successful dribbles per 90 minutes and has an eye for a key pass (making on average 2.5 per league appearance).

This term the young forward has notched up nine league goals in seventeen outings and assisted in another eight goals for teammates.

Looking at him, he would certainly seem to fit the profile required to play at either Man Utd or Spurs. He’s young, technically gifted, efficient with the ball, strong and composed in the final third and he will excite the home support.

Tottenham need more attacking options, while I still believe United need a consistent star to shine on their right wing!

It’s not all positive:

Bergwijn isn’t known for his defensive contribution but under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Man United haven’t been as keen to their attackers back to defend as they were under former boss Jose Mourinho.

United will also be reminded that things didn’t work out the last time they signed a young exciting winger from the Netherlands. Memphis Depay just didn’t consistently get the job done at Old Trafford and he was then sold on to Lyon. That failure might make the Red Devils think twice regarding a move for Steven Bergwijn.

Tottenham might feel that they need a centre-forward during this window and might wait and see if they can get Steven in the summer.

With all that being said, a €30m fee for an exciting talent that’s made over seventy Dutch league appearances by twenty-one years of age and has Champions League experience will make sense for many major clubs.

It will be very interesting to see if either Manchester United or Tottenham Hotspur will bite the bullet and make a concrete move for one of The Netherlands’ brightest talents.

Man United’s Romelu Lukaku Should Relish Fight To Get Back Into Team

Manchester United have become a different animal under new interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The United legend has brought in an exciting attacking philosophy and that’s seen his side winning all seven games that he’s been in charge of.

The team look healthier, faster, hungrier and happier. The starting line-up has looked fresh and the team’s morale is at it’s highest level this term.

But what does this mean for striker Romelu Lukaku?

The Belgian forward hasn’t started a Premier League game since Ole’s arrival, while youngster Marcus Rashford has flourished in the number nine role.

The England international has scored five goals in his last seven outings. Marcus works hard, has the pace to cause any backline problems and he’s looked very impressive with his one-on-one chances in recent weeks. His overall form suggests that he’s currently undroppable at Old Trafford.

That’s probably not the news that Lukaku will have been hoping for.

But the former Everton and Chelsea man should look at the positives and be determined to win his place back in the team. If he gets his chance, then he needs to take it!

To be fair, in Romelu’s five appearances under Solskjaer (just one start) and the twenty-five year old has scored three times in those 161 minutes, which works out at a goal every fifty-four minutes.

It’s also safe to say that the Belgian internationalist will get more first team chances.

Rashford is still just twenty-one and he’ll need to be rested at some point.

After United’s most recent win over Brighton & Hove Albion, Solskjaer said this to The Sun:

“He (Rashford) was tired towards the end because his work-rate is unbelievable.”

“I have to be fair to the boys, I do demand a lot of sprinting and high press because we are Man United.

“Maybe the last two games it has caught up with a few but we have got another week to be ready for Arsenal, so we will be ready for Arsenal.”

The Norwegian coach will know that he can’t keep Marcus in the team throughout the campaign or he’ll burn out. He still has to be managed properly.

Plus when have Man United looked at their best? When they’ve had competition for the forward places.

Ole will know that only too well as he was part of that majestic treble winning team of 1999, when Sir Alex Ferguson would rotate between Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham and Solskjaer.

The United gaffer recently said as much to BBC Sport:

“I used to be one of four strikers when we played with two. Now we have six forwards and we play with three.”

“There are enough games. It is about taking your chances when you get them.”

“No-one is scoring as many as Romelu in training.”

The current caretaker boss at Old Trafford has the luxury of having three top class strikers in Lukaku, Rashford and Anthony Martial who can play in the centre-coward’s position. The trio also have the attributes to play on the wing, if needed.

I think Lukaku can do well when he’s fielded out wide. He dominated Arsenal, while at Everton, when he was asked to play on the right wing. He can power his way through and he can win aerial battles against smaller full-backs.

Plus let me blow a wee myth that’s grown in recent weeks. Romelu can be fast and he can be direct. It’s just that he was asked to be a target man and help defensively by Jose Mourinho.

ManUtd.com stated that Romelu produced United’s fastest run last season at 34.84 KM/H. The striker also has the second and fourth fastest record run of that campaign in a Red Devils shirt.

The issue is that he was continually asked to drop deep, win headers and link-up play. That game doesn’t necessarily suit Solskjaer style but Lukaku can work under Ole and learn to adapt his game to fit in.

I truly believe that a fully confident and fit Lukaku can play in this Man United team and do what he does best and that’s find the back of the net. He’s the fifth youngest hitman to hit 100 Premier League goals.

Romelu Lukaku suffered from a crisis of confidence in Jose’s last few months in charge at Manchester United but he, likes others, has improved under their new gaffer. It’s now important that the striker relishes the fight he has to get back into the side and to bang in the goals when the chances come.

If Man Utd are to get back into the top four and challenge for the silverware, then they’ll need players up for a fight and a hungry squad that will take their opportunities.

Romelu can play a big part in helping his team, as long as he remains committed to the cause.

 

Liverpool Winning On And Off The Park!

There’s a real mood of optimism surrounding Liverpool Football Club at the moment.

The Merseyside giants are flying high in the Premier League, leading the table with a four point gap over current champions Manchester City.

Jurgen Klopp has assembled a fantastic squad.

In the last two transfer windows the German coach spotted what was wrong with his squad and went out and brought in more midfielders, a top quality goalkeeper and arguably the best defender in the world.

Last season’s scoring sensation Mohamed Salah once again leads the Premier League scoring charts after a slow start to the campaign.

The Anfield side are also still in the Champions League and are hoping they can go one step further than they did last term (when they were losing finalists).

The Reds lost their first league game of the season to Man City earlier this month and that was followed up with another defeat (this time to Wolves in the FA Cup) but Klopp will be happy with the side’s response as they’ve then gone on and won their next two league fixtures.

After the weekend win over Crystal Palace, Jurgen would tell LiverpoolFC.com that his players were warriors and had given their fans belief:

“These boys are ready to do that, they are real fighters. It’s a bunch of proper warriors – I love that. They all stick their leg in or whatever.

“It was a really hard-fought victory. It’s so cool. It’s just nice then to see the faces of all the people [in the crowd]. You are close enough, you go there and see the happy faces. That’s cool.”

To win titles you will need to grind-out wins in tough games and Liverpool have been doing that this season. Klopp has a squad that can excite but can also fight.

As optimism grows, football clubs need to harness it and keep the feel good factor going.

Obviously you can do that by continually winning football matches but you can also do it by keeping your best talent at the club and renewing their deals.

Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Jordan Henderson, Joe Gomez, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold have all committed their longterm futures to The Reds within that last seven months.

That’s incredible business especially when you consider the issues Manchester United, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal have had when trying to tie down some of their top talent.

The recent contract renewals of the two young full-backs kind of typifies what Liverpool are all about under Klopp. They are young, ambitious players that give their all for the club’s cause. They’re great in their positions and will fight to get the job done.

It should be noted that Liverpool have just reached an agreement to part company with Jurgen Klopp’s former number two Zeljko Buvac (Source Liverpool Echo). The Bosnian Serb was credited in being a huge part of Klopp’s previous coaching successes but he hasn’t been at the Melwood training ground since  he departed towards the end of last season.

Many questioned how Klopp and Liverpool would react to the walkout but the team have seemingly taken the news in their stride and carried on improving. That’s testament to the squad, many other sides would’ve been rocked by that kind of upheaval.

It’s clear that The Reds hierarchy have the upmost trust in their manager. They’ve backed him in the transfer market, they’ve kept their best players tied down to lucrative longterm contracts and they’ve been patient when trophies haven’t arrived instantly.

Liverpool are now a club that from top to bottom are looking extremely impressive. They’ve got a project that had the ultimate goal of winning the Premier League title.

Jurgen Klopp has been given the tools and the time to get things right and this year could be the year that they finally get their hands on the trophy that they’ve been dreaming about for so long!

Timothy Weah Could Put A Spring Back Into Celtic’s Season

Copyright – Twitter – @CelticFC

A few weeks back I wrote an article discussing why I thought Celtic’s loan move for Oliver Burke was a bit of an odd one.

I feel it’s only right that I also point out that I believe that the loan signing of Timothy Weah could be a real coup for the Scottish Premiership champions.

Now there’s no way that Celtic will be able to sign the gifted teen on a permanent basis but the PSG whizkid might have enough about him to bring the feel good factor back to Parkhead for the remainder of the season.

In the first half of the campaign, Celtic weren’t as exciting as they’ve been in previous years. They looked more vulnerable than they’ve done previously. They were knocked out of the Champions League in the qualifying stages, they endured a difficult and uninspiring summer transfer window, had lost four Premiership games before the turn of the year and that included a defeat to rivals Rangers.

It should be noted that even with this lull in form, Celtic still captured the League Cup (their seventh trophy in a row under Brendan Rodgers), are still top of the league table with a game in hand, have the best goal difference in Scotland’s top tier and are still in the Europa League.

Most teams would give their right arm for that kind of disappointing start to a season!

Yet it did seem to be a bit gloomy at Celtic Park as 2019 arrived.

The arrival of Weah, albeit on a temporary basis, could really bring back the sunny outlook for Rodgers and the Celtic faithful.

After selling Moussa Dembele late on in August, Celtic were short in the forward areas. That was significantly amplified when Scottish international attacker Leigh Griffiths went on a leave of absence. It was left to hitman Odsonne Edouard to carry the load, with help from James Forrest and Scott Sinclair.

The US internationalist comes in and gives the Hoops team a new attacking option.

Weah made his debut yesterday, coming off the bench to grab his first goal in the Scottish Cup tie against Airdrie.

The eighteen year old took his goal with aplomb!

Belgian centre-back Dedryck Boyata played a sublime pass that cut through The Diamonds defence, Tim showed great awareness and pace to latch onto the through ball and hit it expertly first time to beat the onrushing goalie.

The goal might have been against a lower league side but it showed us that the young striker has the tools needed to be very effective in front of goal.

Tim Weah does look to be an extraordinary talent and the pedigree to go all the way!

He was fast-tracked into the PSG senior set-up and to be honest he didn’t look out of place whenever he appeared for the Ligue 1 champs. The problem is that his appearances were sparse due to a frontline of Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar. That trio are all world class and in their last outing they helped Les Parisians to a 9-0 win over Guingamp, with the forwards sharing eight of those goals between them.

Weah has also won eight caps for the United States national team, scoring against Bolivia back in May.

We should also acknowledge that his father is one George Weah, The current President of Liberia was a superstar striker who had successful spells with AS Monaco, PSG and AC Milan in his heyday, winning the Ballon d’Or in the process.

Timothy looks to have a lot of the attributes needed to become a top class talent and that will excite his Hoops teammates and the Celtic faithful.

Bringing a great prospect, that could be on the cusp of wonderful things could rejuvenate Celtic’s outlook as they carry on and try and secure yet another league title.

The young ambitious hitman seems happy that he’s in Glasgow and working under a talented coach in Brendan Rodgers (from the Daily Record):

“The gaffer made it really easy.

“He told me what I need to do and to work hard an anything is possible.”

“Celtic is the right place, the history, the fans, it’s a place I want to score more goals.

“The guys here are amazing and it felt really good.”

It might just be the start of a temporary stay but Timothy Weah at least gives Celtic another versatile option for the forward areas and the Scottish champions needed that.

If he can fulfil some of his vast potential in the next six months, then he could be the catalyst to another treble winning party in Glasgow’s east-end come May!

 

Newcastle Utd Need To Keep Star Player Fit If They Want To Survive Relegation Battle

Salomon Rondon might not have scored in Newcastle United’s 3-0 win over fellow relegation battlers Cardiff City yesterday, but the Venezuelan striker still managed to produce a match winning display.

The Toon’s vital Premier League win has seen them leapfrog over their opponents and out of the dreaded drop zone.

Rondon gave a warrior like performance and he gave his teammates a focal point up-top.

His scoring record isn’t the best this season, he’s scored five in fifteen starts this term, but we know he can improve on that as he has done in the past with West Bromwich Albion. A player of his ilk should be aiming to grab at least ten league goals a season and he’s yet to do that in England’s top flight.

But there’s more to his game than just goals. He’s created three assists in the league thus far this season, including a very nice cut back for Ayoze Perez yesterday.

Rondon, on his day can be great with his build up play. Only centre-back Florian Lejeune made more passes than Rondon did against Cardiff, with Solomon making more key passes with three. The powerful hitman had a total of 73 touches of the ball and only Magpies winger Matt Ritchie had more.

The forward even helped out defensively with stats website Whoscored confirming that he made one successful tackle and two clearances during the ninety minutes.

Twenty-nine year old Rondon can be that bully type target man that gives defences a tough time. I’m pretty sure Cardiff City’s backline knew they were in a strong, physical game against him at St James’ Park. He’s also very good in the air, winning four aerial duels this weekend and on average he wins 4.5 per game this season.

Salomon doesn’t just win them in the opposing half either, with Newcastle Utd struggling they will need all hands on the deck defensively in certain games and Salomon Rondon is a great forward when it comes to defending set-pieces.

It should be noted that the international hitman showed great sportsmanship on Saturday when he kicked the ball out in an attacking position after seeing an opponent down with a head injury. That was classy and former England international forward Ian Wright agreed:

Don’t get me wrong, Salomon can still improve his all-round game. The striker needs to be greedier in front of goal, take more attempts and stay in dangerous positions. His passing success rate of just 66.2% can also be vastly improved upon.

After seeing his side lose to Newcastle United, Cardiff City boss Neil Warnock told Sky Sports that the Toon hitman was the game changer:

“I thought Rondon was the difference today,”

 “He led the line really well.”

If Newcastle Utd and Rafa Benitez want to survive and stay in the Premier League then they’ll want to hear more opposing managers praise Rondon after the Venezuelan striker dismantles their team’s defence.

Salomon Rondon really could be Newcastle United’s difference maker!

Maurizio Sarri Needs To Quickly Fix Problems At Chelsea

Chelsea have had a rough couple of weeks, losing to both London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.

After yesterday’s defeat to The Gunners, Chelsea have now lost four Premier League games, are fourth in the league table and are just four points ahead of a reemerging Manchester United side currently sitting in sixth place.

Last season, The Blues fell out of the top four and they can’t really afford to do it two seasons in a row (unless they win The Europa League).

Much was expected of new coach Maurizio Sarri when the maverick Italian arrived at Stamford Bridge during the summer.

After the recent losses, some supporters and pundits have started to question the manager and his Sarri-Ball philosophy.

It started so differently as the men from Kings Road flew out of the traps and were in blistering form as Sarri’s pressing and constant passing style worked a treat.

Star talent Eden Hazard was by far and away the best player of the league in the first few months, new signing Jorginho was dictating things with his deep-laying playmaking and the defence were pretty solid in front of new goalkeeper Kepa.

The problem started for Sarri with his frustration regarding his main strikers.

Alvaro Morata has been far too inconsistent since his big move from Real Madrid. The Spanish international has scored just five league goals in sixteen games, that’s less than Hazard and Pedro. It’s simply not good enough for a £60m hitman, you’d be hoping for one in two outings!

Olivier Giroud’s goalscoring record has been even worse, with the Frenchman only scoring once in the Premier League this term. But in fairness to the thirty-two year old he does offer more of an all-round game. During France’s World Cup triumph last summer, Olivier didn’t score but he was the focal point up-top that brought the other attackers into the game, he distracted opposing defenders and he held onto the ball in the last third.

When Chelsea were at their best earlier in the campaign, it was with no coincidence that that happened with Hazard flourishing, A big reason for Eden’s early success was down to his great working relationship with Giroud. The two linked up well, with the Belgian knowing that Olivier would get into great positions and constantly give Hazard the ball back and attacker was overjoyed with that.

Giroud is basically a number ten target man type and the likes of Hazard and Pedro enjoy playing off of him because he’s generous with his work-rate and passing contribution. Only Eden has created more assists than Giroud this season.

Yet in the last month, Sarri has decided to play Eden Hazard as a false nine and keep Giroud to the bench.

It worked well against Manchester City but it hasn’t worked on a consistent basis.

The Belgian maestro stated under former boss Antonio Conte that he’s not a fan of the role and he simply doesn’t get on the ball enough.

Sarri has said to Sky Sports that having Eden in that role helps the team defensively:

“At the moment in the defensive phase we are doing very well and one of the reasons, in my opinion, is that Eden is playing in that position,”

Now the issue with that is that Chelsea haven’t been bad in defence this year, it’s in the final third that they’ve had more problems. The Blues have the worst scoring record in top six.

I’d not be surprised if Maurizio was playing Hazard in that role to prove his point that he needs another striker. The Mirror are reporting that Gonzalo Higuain is the main target and he’ll arrive in London this week to conclude a transfer to The Bridge.

If the Argentine does arrive, then he’ll need to hit the ground running. Sarri’s worked with Gonzalo before at Napoli and will be hoping that he can be just as prolific in England, although he hasn’t had his best scoring season thus far at AC Milan.

Another problem Chelsea and Sarri have had in recent games has been that opposition teams have started to squeeze and mark Jorginho. The Italian holding midfielder has since struggled to make things tick with his passing as he now goes back the way or sideways instead of passing the ball forward.

When that happens sometimes the defence will miss Jorginho out or the Italian international will give up possession and your opponents are then on the front foot.

Simply put, Jorginho isn’t at his best when he’s then asked to win the ball back. You’ll have the likes of Aaron Ramsey or Dele Alli running off him and Chelsea become exposed at the back.

It frustrates the Chelsea support to see this when they’ve then got N’Golo Kante playing out of position. In comparison; last year in the holding role Kante averaged 3.3 tackles per league game and Jorginho is only making 1.9 tackles per outing (Stats from Whoscored).

When you play Kante out on the right you’re not going to get him at his best.

In all of Chelsea’s Premier League games, they’ve started in a 4-3-3 formation. If you want to win titles, you need to have a Plan B. Sarri doesn’t seem to have one.

Why not go to a 4-2-3-1, if the 4-3-3 isn’t working? Have Kante sweeping up in the middle, start with Giroud and have Pedro, Willian and Hazard playing off him.

I’d also urge the Italian coach to freshen up his starting line-up.

Do you want to keep Callum Hudson-Odoi? Then you need to play him and from the start!

If the midfield looks unbalanced, then give Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek more minutes on the pitch. These are hungry players and ones that believe that they have a point to prove. Dropping Jorginho and Willian, or similar players, might give them a kick-up the backside they need.

Maurizio Sarri is a very talented coach and when his team is on form they’re a joy to watch. But if there’s no Plan B then chances are that you’ll struggle to win major trophies and that’s evident when you look at Sarri’s CV.

The Italian boss needs to learn to change things up from time to time.

Man United Midfield Duo Matic And Herrera Allow Forwards To Shine

Manchester United have now made it six Premier League wins out of six, under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Man United’s attack has really kicked up a gear under the new boss; with Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford looking particularly stronger under Solskjaer’s guardianship.

The Norwegian has also toughened up United’s defence and they were on course for another cleansheet today in their win over Brighton & Hover Albion before a mistake from Phil Jones allowed Pascal Gross to grab a consolation strike.

A key part in Man Utd’s upturn in form, both defensively and in attack, has been the great performances of  midfielders Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera.

Like everyone else for the Red Devils, Matic underperformed during Jose Mourinho’s last few months in charge at Old Trafford. While Spanish midfielder Herrera had fallen out of favour under the former manager, which meant his appearances were sporadic before Ole’s arrival.

But since the arrival of Solskjaer and Herrera’s reintroduction to the starting eleven, United’s midfield has looked significantly better.

What the duo have given the team is consistency. They work well as a unit and do their best to protect the backline and to clean up if the attack lose the ball.

Against Tottenham Hotspur last week, both players would drop deep and sit just in front of the back four if Spurs ventured into United’s half. In the first period, it worked a treat as they continually plugged gaps and ushered the ball away from their goal.

When they are constantly protecting the backline, it gives Pogba the freedom to go forward whenever possible and do what he does best. Since the new gaffer took on the managerial hot-seat at Old Trafford, Paul Pogba has struck five goals and created four assists. He’s becoming a huge game changer and that’s because he has confidence in the two players (Herrera & Matic) playing behind him.

Against The Seagulls today (via Whoscored) both middle-men were very efficient with their passing. Ander made 62 passes in the game and 90% of them were successful, while Nemanja made an incredible 98 passes and 91% of those were successful too. They also made three key passes between them!

Matic brings added height to the engine room, winning three headers today. While Herrera gives the side more energy and mobility. The Spaniard stated to MUTV that he relishes playing in the number eight role:

“I like to help David (De Gea), and to help the defenders,”

“But I also like to try to score goals. I have a good chance today, and I think one of my qualities is that I can go from box-to-box. I can help the team with the ball and without the ball, and I think Ole likes that.”

Defensively today, Serbian international Matic made three successful tackles, Herrera made more interceptions than any other Man United player and between the two of them they made four clearances.

The pair of holding midfielders give the team much needed balance. They venture forward at times but it’s more about giving their teammates the chance to shine in their positions.

Talksport are reporting that Ander is close to agreeing a new deal with the Red Devils and I believe keeping the twenty-nine year old at the club would be a huge boost.

It’s great that the forwards are getting the plaudits and the goals, it’s also good news that the defence is improving but we shouldn’t overlook the contribution of Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic. The midfield duo do a lot of the dirty work but their performances have been invaluable in the past month and without them Manchester United wouldn’t be as strong as they’ve been and can now look to climb back into the top four!

Looking At The Portuguese Teen Sensation Catching Liverpool’s Eye

According to reports in Portugal (Correio da Manha). Liverpool have had a €70m bid turned down for Benfica teenager Joao Felix.

If The Reds have earmarked the nineteen year as a potential target then you can bet your bottom dollar that he’s a gifted individual and that they’ll probably go in again for the young talent.

So why would Liverpool and other top European clubs chase Felix’s signature? 

Well Reds boss Jurgen Klopp has still to find a natural creative replacement for Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho. It’s thought that the German would like another exciting attacking star to add more competition within his squad.

Portugal has a rich history of producing world class attacking talent; Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Ricardo Quaresma, Sergio Conceicao, Nani and Rui Costa instantly spring to mind.

A quick look at current Premier League sides will show you that the Euro 2016 champions still produce strong creative players with Bernardo Silva, Ruben Neves, Andre Gomes and Jota all impressing this season.

Benfica are a club that are well known for bringing through exciting prospects.

It’s thought that Joao Felix could be his country’s next big thing.

In his ten Primeira Liga (five starts/five from bench) appearances this term, the teen has scored four times and created an assist.

Long-term Felix is thought to be seen as a number ten maestro type, pulling the strings behind the strikers. But the youngster can play anywhere in the forward areas, he’s been used centrally and on the left wing this season. His style on the ball reminds me of a young Kaka or Rui Costa.

Joao comes alive when he’s got the ball at his feet, he’s got great technique and his first touch is often immaculate. He is composed when in front of goal or when he’s under pressure from opponents, possesses the tricks needed to beat defenders and has the vision to pick out top class passes that set-up attacks.

His technique, ability to remain calm, his passing style and his nice build up play with others would stand him in good-stead if he were to join the Merseyside giants.

Veteran Benfica striker Jonas stated his belief that Joao can become a star as he possesses so much talent (via the International Champions Cup website):

“I don’t want to put pressure on the boy, but he is a player who can show his potential to not just the fans of Benfica, but to fans across Europe. He is a boy who has enormous quality and a calmness with the ball in the feet.”

A huge reason, apart from his wonderful raw ability, that would attract a world class manager like Klopp will be Felix’s age.

High level bosses often love working with younger talented players that have endless potential. Getting them in early means that the coach can mould them and get them used to the style that the coach likes to see his teams play in. The younger stars are often eager to learn and are more accepting of change. It also gives the manager a chance to spot any weaknesses in the young player and work on them, plus they can break any bad habits that they’ve picked up elsewhere.

Being just a teenager, Felix could come in and not demand regular starts. We all know that Klopp likes to bring in new signings and have them adapt by sitting on the bench and watching the starting eleven. It worked with Andy Robertson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri. So you’d expect Jurgen to do the same if he’s lucky enough to bring in Joao Felix.

With Benfica already reportedly turning down €70m for the youngster, then it’s going to take a huge bid to get the player to any of the major sides.

But a big club like Liverpool will no doubt try and tempt the Portuguese giants with yet another huge bid sometime in the future. He’s certainly a player every elite club should be keeping an eye on!

Man United Man Has Given His All But It’s Time He Left Old Trafford

When Jose Mourinho approved a new Manchester United deal for midfielder Marouane Fellaini, it was probably the beginning of the end for the Portuguese boss at Old Trafford.

Towards the end of last season Jose would state to The Independent:

“I want to see the white paper with the United crest and Ed Woodward’s signature and Marouane Fellaini’s signature.”

That kind of statement showed a lot of Man United fans that Mourinho wasn’t prepared to evolve and play the ‘Manchester United Way’.

The Belgian international has given his all for the club but at no point since his arrival in 2013 has he looked like a proper Man United star.

Mourinho, and Louis van Gaal before him, would often use the big midfielder as a battering ram or a Plan B. His strength and height would be used if games needed to be changed, with long balls up to Marouane being the order of that particular day.

In some occasions it would work extremely well, with Fellaini rescuing United from whichever whole they’d found themselves in. The most recent evidence of this was the midfielder’s late winner in Man Utd’s Champions League win over Young Boys, a goal that would secure The Red Devils safe passage into the all important knockout stages.

Fellaini would also help defensively when the team were under attack, again using his aerial strength to his and his side’s advantage. He’s also a player that can spoil games, when other brighter teams are looking to play football.

Now the issue is that under new interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the club’s need for that type of midfielder is no longer evident.

Solskjaer wants to bring an attacking philosophy back to Old Trafford and that style requires pace, pressing and passing, not really playing to Marouane’s strong points. If anything he can become a hinderance in this kind of set-up and a distraction.

According to a recent report in The Mirror, United could be willing to offload Fellaini if they get a bid in excess of £15m for the player during this transfer window. The same article has stated that AC Milan, FC Porto and Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande are all interested in the thirty-one year old.

It has been very telling that Ole has been reluctant to give the Belgian international game time since the Norwegian coach’s arrival. Fellaini made a brief substitute appearance in Solskjaer’s first game in charge against Cardiff City and then had another cameo in the FA Cup against Reading.

The giant midfield man wasn’t even in United’s 18 man squad for their vital Premier League match against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend. The Red Devils fought hard to hang onto their 1-0 win, yet unlike during the Mourinho or Van Gaal eras the manager on this occasion didn’t throw on Fellaini to spoil the game and see out the result.

I don’t think Manchester United fans should cheer the potential departure of Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian gave them his all and when some of their creative talent struggled on the big stage, he at least provided heart and goals at important times.

That being said, his time at Old Trafford should be coming to an end. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has shown that Man United can once again play a fast, attacking game that excites their faithful and can get positive results.

I simply don’t think Marouane Fellaini can fit into that style!